H.C.P. and the RIFLE
After finding the visual evidence implying the heavy NRT in the Park
Museum could have belonged to the sharpshooter, another question came to
mind. Why didn't young Rosensteel find the carrying case, the ram rod and
the other various items missing unto this day?
I assume that if the lad did find the rifle within the "Home" site then
he could have collected
everything laying around that went with it. He may not have recognized the
case, but he should
have grabbed the ram rod and the shooter's bag (which seems to appear in
photo 2 just this side of the freshly spread blanket). By all indications,
the place was a treasure chest of soldier stuff. I think a 17-year-old
would know plenty about and have a keen interest in common rifles and
But the "Home" photo shows by its marvelous contents that, by Tuesday or
Wednesday afternoon, the site had not been pilfered. Rosensteel had not
returned to pick out anything more. Perhaps he did see the sharpshooter
lying as if sleeping in his "Home" and it scared him (it would have scared
me). But if that were the case, then why would he have enough nerve to go
"in" and grab the rifle? It seemed I couldn't make sense of anything unless
I had that rifle
removed from the "Home" site by the shell blast. And, unlike the
sharpshooter who appeared
untouched, the rifle sure does look like it took on a nearby blast force.
Eventually, I settled on the
following scenario. It is based somewhat on my own average physical height,
but it works out
The "Shrine" Click here to see The Shrine painting
I've made a lot of stone walls myself and I am pretty sure this fellow
could have built his
careless "wall" all by himself and in less than three hours-- if there were
plenty of stones nearby
and no one to offer assistance. That stated, I should add that my thoughts
are he had help. I have
studied this fellow's hands and found nothing testifying to their sole
When the sharpshooter was building his wall he made it about a foot
higher than the one
showing in the "Home" photo and the one which nearly matches that in the
park today. My
reasoning is the one in the photo and, by its copy, the one in the park
today, are too short for an
average man to stand comfortably behind to get a good rest shot. I tried
it myself and I had to
bend my back to rest my stick "rifle" upon it for a steady shot at LRT. It
wasn't comfortable. On
the other hand, it's too high to get off a sitting shot.
Using the photo to plot the position on the ground today, I was able to get an average measurement from the sharpshooter's right knee to his head. This span measured approx. four feet. Which is what my own head to knee measures out to. And so I'm comfortable thinking this fellow and I are similar in height. Ergo, that wall was probably higher. Plus, for really fine work, I feel he would have added a shelf for resting his elbows on while he took aim (just maybe using that flatter "shelf" rock the photographers removed from his flattened legs). And a higher wall would have made the shooter feel more secure against return fire. I should also mention that this poorly-interlocking loose stone "wall" is much thicker at its base and more substantial at its top than the current reconstruction at the park. In retrospect, this "shrine" wall could be aptly described as a stone pile. Still, it was a sturdy creation for the sharpshooter to place his faith in and a testament to his role in battle.
After building his shrine to the proper height the soldier would have
likely placed that piece of
rotten stump-wood as a rest to protect his rifle and cushion the muzzle
when fired. Short of a
heavy sandbag, I can imagine nothing better he might have been using. As I
show in the
"Shrine" painting, the heavy octagonal barrel and forward center of gravity
would enable it to
rest firmly upon the wall-- and all by itself. There would be no need for
the sharpshooter to even
hold it there between shots (no up and down hefting while waiting for a
target to expose itself). Of course, perfect barrel stability could be
attained by carving a shallow groove in the stump-wood.
The shooter probably had a love-hate relationship with this particular
rifle. He could only
marvel proudly upon its performance. From a great distance he could
singlehandedly drive a
cannon or battery from the field. Yet it could not be used effectively
without a rest position.
Climbing trees then loading and firing this rife was an impossibility.
Mobility during action was
hardly plausible. Cleaning between shots then reloading was a
time-consuming and tricky
operation. And the darned thing was an absolute curse to carry around. Just
imagine, on top of
that twenty-five pound soldiers' load you would normally have to lug
around, you have this 36
lb. "prize" to boot (its extra accouterments adding further weight. I can
readily believe the usual
mode of transport for this rifle was by wagon).
Considering the distance to LRT, I feel certain this fellow would think his rifle pretty safe and secure by itself--trigger downwards, scope topside-- as it rested atop the wall between shots.
His home is well hidden with a good-sized bush growing in front of the
left boulder. With luck,
his shrine just may be invisible to the yanks atop that hill in the
distance. But he could see them
I reason this sharpshooter is given his assignment before nightfall on
the 2nd day. Considering the heft of his considerable and
specialized equipment, he may even hitch a ride from the
Emittsburg Road in one of the wagons sent out to get the wounded. Asking a
permission, he probably gets help from the numerous Georgians around him as
he begins his
task. In about an hour a significant mass of heavy stones has been piled
between and in front of
the boulders. The shrine is nearly complete. After bidding respects to his
sharpshooter makes camp and tries to get some rest. Minor and final
adjustment to the inside
wall of the "shrine" will take place at dawn. No one on the hill will see
his movements now.
Throughout the night the sharpshooter remains close to his "Home",
guarding his gear. There are
confederate pickets nearby and perhaps he visits with them-- or maybe walks
west and down the
hill to the larger gathering of troops for conversation or a hot drink. He
is keenly aware of the
pathetic cries of the wounded nearby, by sporadic gunfire and the incessant
noise from the
direction of LRT. It is apparent the Northerners are busy with their own
Those cannon will only be tougher targets on the morrow. Fitfully, he tries
to sleep back near the
He is awake earlier than necessary. The pickets positioned around the
"Duck"to his front are
now drifting back, leaving the ridge. Some exchange farewells with him.
Alone, he sets about
fine-tuning his shrine. He carefully loads and sets his target rifle in its
crowning position. His accoutrements are placed handily among the rock
"shelfs" of his wall. The waiting seems interminable. In the distance the
rifle fire is picking up with the light. His own
heavy "match rifle" will add to that war-chorus soon enough. He notices the
ground in front of
his creation has been worn of its grassy cover. Retrieving his bedding rug,
he lays it out over the
bare and stony ground; better to soil that than his uniform. Besides, if he
drops any loading tools
or those pristine target bullets, they will be unharmed by the fall.
His feet are hurting from the tightness of the "new" shoes he is
wearing. He tries to relax,
deciding to break his fast with one of several biscuits stored within his
tin cup. As he
eats he ponders the distant hill. Afterwards, he sits down on his knapsack
and fires his pipe.
Dawn casts flecks of pink and gold upon the ramparts of his home.
This is the time I choose to portray him. For months now, I have studied
him carefully through
the photographs....struggling with the sparse clues they provide. I would
be the first to tell you
that those six photos contain a wealth of information. Yet, when it comes
to recapturing a once
living personage they provide only vexation. Small wonder that he has
remained unidentified by
viewers of the "Home". In truth he cannot look like himself. His mouth is
beneath that now days-old cloak of death. It is tainted by some noticeable
swelling, by gravity
and forever relaxed and useless muscle. What of the strength, character,
and determination it
once would offer? Gone forever. And so, regrettably, maybe even thankfully,
must attempt to fill the void.
And those eyes! They are closed and their secrets locked against me.
Contrary to our right,
we have nothing with which to judge this man's soul. Nothing to guide an
artist's hand. Again and with
nothing more availing, intuition must suffice.
In my thoughts I try to imagine his face in the classic three-quarter,
animated again with life, its
elements in harmony; a puzzle extreme! Something sympathetic and well
beyond that death-
mask oblivion. I am surely doomed to frustration. With imagination I peer
in from beyond his
"home". With my brushes I reach across the distance that separates us. I
touch his illusory
shape. The coat, the pants. The hat and those shoes. They emerge from a
soft haze of oil and
pigment to appear as they once did in life and a day long past. Now, with
deliberation and hope, I begin touching his face with my brushes, seeking
I detect some faint response arising from the flesh-colored murk. An
unsettling period of trial
and error contact takes over my hand and subconscious.
Presently, as if once again proud and pleased with his soldier's attire,
HCP turns at my direction.
He opens his eyes and stares at me. Now beyond my brush he gives me the
once over. For a brief
moment he looks across time. He looks into my eyes and he judges my soul.
Then he turns away from me, worried and wearied from his world and its duties. He ponders his under-blanket laying freshly spread before his shrine. Presently he removes his shoes. He will work in comfort and freedom. If the need arises, he can slip them back on quick enough.
July 3rd is shaping up to be one heck of a scorcher. As he works within the morning shadow from his "shrine", the sharpshooter carefully delivers against the smoke-spouting battery atop LRT. The hill seems alive as the monsters atop its crest emit thunder and those long plumes of billowing whiteness. The sharpshooter wonders about his own smoke cloud. It is considerable. Still, his common sharpshooter brethren are firing their Enfields from the woods at the base of that bigger hill to his right. They should draw the yanks' attention from his own location. There are no sharpshooters situated around his area. At his direction they were told to stay clear. There will be nothing nearby to arouse the enemy's attention. He reloads his weapon and sets the heavy piece in ready position atop his wall. Then he waits for opportunity and potential targets to show themselves behind those distant fortifications.
Telescopic view of sharpshooter's home from battery
position atop LRT-1998. A bush partially obscured the large right side
boulder during the battle.
After his final shot he checks for effect and reloads his piece. Then
he places the implements and ramrod aside and hefts the rifle back over its
stump-wood rest. Peering through his sight to check for new targets, he
sees commotion on the hill and quickly deduces something is up. In the
heat-shimmering distance, there is a blue soldier with a "glass" pointing
in his direction and, moving his scope, he warily notes one of the battery
crews are moving a gun around to face him. He sees that small black muzzle
coming into direct view. He wonders with swift calculation....could they
be turning a gun to fire at troops or a Confederate battery well behind him
towards the Emmitsburg Road? He can't see beyond the cedar behind him but
figures it may be time to make an exit from his "Home".
There is no further reason to stick around and trade shots. He knows he
now be the target. Perhaps he has made note of the comparatively small
3-inch bore of those
cannon atop the hill and has dismissed them as relatively puny against his
fortress. He bends
down and begins collecting his gear, still confident that his faithful
shrine will protect him. At
this stage, his major fear is what will happen when he leaves his shrine's
protective cover. He
will cross that bridge when it comes but now, due to the amount of
equipment he owns, it will
take him quite a while to gather it all. Therein lies the fatal check to
egress. He thinks he has
time to make a complete escape. He hurriedly slips on his shoes, places a
his neck rather than his shoulder and the haversack-strap goes around over
that. His open blanket
is truly a spark from home and family and he goes to collect it. He kneels
and begins gathering it
for stowage into the haversack. He will carry his heavy rifle encased from
his shoulders and
across his back and so the knapsack must be borne at his side instead.
Hunkered down some four
feet behind his wall he surely and nimbly prepares for his retreat.
The Desecration of the Shrine Click here to see the Desecration
The small cannon on the hill are rifled Parrotts and, their small
muzzle's aside, they are
formidable in their destructive ability (the large split boulder I found
beside Plum Run in the
gorge today bears witness, at least in my mind, to the amazing power
delivered by these rifled
and very accurate cannon--found in the "Battlescape" summary report, see
what you think). The sharpshooter's position is well within their range of
accuracy. A stationary target, the "Home" will be little more than gunnery
practice. I cannot say which shell, the first or second fired, did the deed
(I'm thinking 'first' as the rifle would almost have to be atop the shrine
when the explosion occurred) but I do believe a case shot (not a percussion
shell) exploded just forward of the loose stone wall. As I show in my
second painting, the exploding shell blew a maelstrom against and across
the top of the "shrine" and down between the funneled boulders. Whatever
was lying atop the shrine went with it and everything in alignment within
and beyond the "Home" was swept away as if from a gigantic shotgun blast. (
I think the sharpshooter had left his rifle lying atop the wall still
pointing toward the hill and the oncoming blast. In consequence, the top
of the rifle received a round shot which tore away the rear of its scope,
driving itself into that torn end, causing it to flange out around the
ball. The ocular easily separated and flew its unknown way. The rifle
cartwheeled straight back towards the rear of the home and struck its stock
squarely and solidly against the top straight-edge of the small rock shelf
beneath the cedar tree. Then it went spinning barrel over end. ) The cedar
directly behind and in the force's scattering path becomes a blurry spray
of boughs and chips. It ends up a splintered path of debris extending west
from the home and possibly covering the rifle. The 5-inch deciduous tree
loses some branches and leaves but is shielded by the large left boulder of
the "Home". The wall's top layer of stump and shelf-stones topple over and
down onto the luckless soldier, perhaps killing him outright. The smoke
cleared and all became quiet--at least from the view atop LRT.
The gunners on the hill still see the wall seemingly undamaged and
believe their first shot/s was
ineffective. They prepare to deliver their next blow. This time, and in
tune with Augustus
Martin's account, they load a percussion shell. Upon delivery, this shell
strikes the large boulder
on the left (Martin's right) of the sharpshooter's position and explodes
solidly.[As I mentioned
earlier, I believe this final shell left the mark showing today on the east
face of that large boulder.
Of course, I wasn't a witness. There is no ultimate way to prove that
strange "dent" occurred by
a shell hit. I am not aware of anyone ever noticing this mark or making
the possible connection.
I encourage the reader to examine the site for themselves. I should point
out that regardless of
what type of shell did the deed, the sharpshooter was well behind his wall
when it hit. There is
nothing to indicate the soldier was exposed to the direct blast of the
explosion (only the rifle).
And his death may be attributed to concussion instead of a bump on the
noggin. Admittedly, I
know not the actual dampening effects of a stone barrier against a
After the shell explodes against the east side of the boulder, the
gunners receive no further
reports from the "Home" site and figure they have driven the culprit off.
The next day, Saturday, Augustus Martin and other artillerists descend
to the Den and discover
the sharpshooter lying dead behind his toppled wall with no apparent
remove some of the wall rocks (excepting those laying on the legs) and
actually perform a rather
thorough inspection of the soldier's body--opening his patch-pocket
frock-coat, unbuttoning his
white shirt, even undoing his fancy belt and exposing his lower abdomen.
Finding nothing wrong
with his "vitals", they conclude he died from concussion. [And who am I to
We can assume the Union soldiers made note of and discounted the two straps
Either the artillerists do not see the rifle or they conclude it to be
too damaged for further value.
Furthermore, they are artillerists and would have no more than a curious
urge to collect the
unusual piece. If one of them did pick it up with the intent to carry it
off as a war-prize, then he
soon might have discarded it when its weight took effect on his shoulders.
On Sunday young Rosensteel has an adventure after chores, church and
Sunday dinner. He visits
the area of Little Round Top and the Plum Run Gorge and finds many relics
of the fierce battle. He searches throughout the Devil's Den. Exuberant, he
comes upon the peculiar rifle lying amidst the cedar debris. Being a
clever fellow he notices the destruction from the shell-blast and follows
to the "Home" where he gets the fright of his life. He sees a Confederate
between the rocks. He would see no injury and there would be no signs of
swelling. He may
notice the stone/s lying upon the man's lower body but that aside and
hefting his prize, he is on
the lam away from there. Days will pass before he returns for a second
check. By that
time the "sleeping" soldier will be gone.
On Tuesday (or Wednesday), the "Home" and its treasure is caught in
silver nitrate for eternity. The photographers remove the tree and flatten
the undergrowth around its base and the left side of
the shell-cropped cedar. Stones laying on the lower legs are mostly
removed. The open frock
coat is draped back over the body. One photographer straddles the body and
grasps the frock
coat by its third and fourth button edges, lifting the upper body while his
mate pushes the
knapsack under the head and props it towards the camera. The right arm is
placed across the
chest. They take one very good plate first, then, after removing and
spreading a blanket from the
haversack, follow it with a good stereo. The sharpshooter is dragged from
his "Home" and hidden down the hill. The photographers play 'look and see'
with his knapsack and piddle around the body for quite a while. They
partially dump some white powder (baking powder? Talcum?) and actually put
a small amount onto a "teaspoon". Biscuits and other items appear and
photography begins. They move things here and there but they cannot get a
story going like before, proving the adage that the best discoveries and
ideas come by accident as opposed to design. They eventually leave the body
right there where it quickly degenerates. I feel certain they did not move
it elsewhere. Their next photo--Gibson having returned from wherever-- is
taken some 40 yards further South-west down the hillside and displays a
different, and, as usual, swollen confederate body. The Library of Congress
has this view and judging by the light and shadows on the rocks, it looks
like a late-afternoon shot.
I assume the sharpshooter is eventually buried in a very shallow
"grave" some six feet to the
West of his last "ear-portrait" position, by a farmer who does not want the
stinky thing rotting
near his cattle. Lets face it....who would want to carry the dead man
back to some other
collection site. If the earth will allow it then why not just bury the
fellow right there? So the
farmer gets his son/s and a shovel and carves out an 18-inch deep hole.
Problem solved. I know the Union dead were removed from this area after the
battle ended and were not present when Gardner and his associates arrived.
But I have found nothing to say or imply what happened to the Confederate
dead lying about the Devil's Den area.
And so, I do think this soldier I call a sharpshooter is buried
thereabouts. That is, unless he was transplanted later or some other
photographs come to light showing the sharpshooter in yet another locale.
The "Shrine" falls
The body exits but the shrine wall remains as an icon to the role of the
sharpshooter in battle.
Sightseers and the seasons helps reduce the mass but most of it probably
succumbs to the
proverbial "swords to plowshares" rule. Eventually, the local farmer
decides to make his wooden
rail fence more substantial and constructs a North to South stone model
nearby at the
"Triangular Field". Thus the "Sharpshooter's Shrine" parts out for the
"Farmer's Shrine". Rather
ironically, the movement of the sharpshooter DOWN the hill places him
within spitting distance
to that future stone N-S wall. If he is buried there, then he now rests
beneath the evening shadow
of the peaceful offspring to his own warring creation.
I will end my artistic reconstruction here. As an artist, I often
attempt to reconstruct events in my mind so as to re-create them on canvas.
But nothing in my imagination-except the pipe in the
sharpshooter's mouth-was created without some visual evidence to support
it. As for the pipe not
being found within the photos, I can only reply that I never found a knife
either-- and I know he
had to have one of those. Pipes and knifes were as valuable as currency and
would be quickly
grabbed by either army.
I have a few more observations to deliver but allow me to present my
I have always counted myself fortunate to be born healthy and
able-bodied in America. My
parents and family suited me to a "T". And I was certainly lucky meeting
Carolyn in psych-class
twenty-seven years ago. My first thanks go to my wife for all the usual
My second thanks go to Kurt Graham of Georgia, whose efforts towards
finding HCP were, to
say the least, exhaustive. I credit the modest Mr. Graham as a first class
researcher in the Civil
War realm. I would refer to him as NST on some occasions (No Stone
Unturned). I met Mr.
Graham last summer while he was visiting the area. He wanted to check out
"Battlescape". I could tell he was no slouch when he pointed out that my
largest confederate flag
resembled an Army of Tennessee Battle Flag (post winter '63-64) and should
have, instead, been a battleflag square typical to the Army of Northern
Virginia types (I make mistakes). Still, he recognized my Gettysburg
battle-scene as a worthy accomplishment and purchased one. Then he made
the mistake of asking me what CW subject I was working on next. He was
careful and thoughtful and, as I soon found out, would never jump to any
quick conclusions. He listened to my brief synopsis of visual cues and
gave me his word of confidentiality not to discuss it with another soul.
Later on I received his email citing his belief that I was on to
something. Then he made the bigger mistake of volunteering to try and find
the name-match for HCP.
And I am certain he will. As Kurt said, he "loves a mystery".
I wish to thank William Frassanito for producing his excellent and
thought-provoking books on Gettysburg Photography. His work is a treasure
trove of visual stimuli for my eyes and imagination; just what every artist
Thanks are due to the National Park Service for maintaining the
Battlefield in its near pristine
condition. May you continue to do so. Thanks for prohibiting digging.
Thanks for allowing us
unknowns to freely trek and access the fields in quest of research. Thanks
for the warm Visitor's
Center on a cold day and its many visual displays and battle accouterments.
My thanks also to Steve Holbrook, at the Cyclorama entrance desk, who
gave me the
information about the young Rosensteel who found the sharpshooter's rifle.
Mr. Holbrook, my brother, Patrick, and I also enjoyed your friendly and
informative lecture on sharpshooters (the rest of my thoughts concerning
Rosensteel's actions came from my own imagination).
All too often I fail to mention the help and support I receive from my
loved ones. I come from a
large family. A large, close, friendly and helpful family. I know that if
not for their attentions,
considerations, advice and sometimes critical responses to my unusual but
usual endeavors, I
should not be the wise fool that I am. My thanks go to my parents, Robert
J. and Rhoda M.
Groves. Then to my sisters Anne and Judy (thanks for going along to DC and
looking out for
your clumsy brother). My brothers Patrick, Michael, Barry , David and
Robert were, as always,
supportive and helpful.
I end my thanks with a note to those of you who, through your support
efforts, have, for the many years now, continually allowed me the chance to
create. Your desire
to have something from my hand is my greatest reward as a landscape
The Absolute "O"
What about the item "O" in that Sharpshooter's Home" (photo 1) detail? I thought it better to tell you about it now.
Photo 1 detail/LOC
"O" is a hefty rock lying atop the sharpshooter's lower
right shin and ankle. I can see why somebody studying this photo might have
missed this rounded rock- it being the same gray tone as the pants-leg.
But, nevertheless, it is a rock. And it has been laying on that lower leg
for the four-day duration; I can tell just from the sight of it. You
probably can too....its practically melded to that leg...notice how the
pant-leg surrounds it. What you are seeing here is a rounded rock laying
like a 'roosting bird in its nest' on that pant-leg while photographed at
the "Home". This rock is also visible in photo 2 (taken with a stereo
camera, proving actuality to what was recorded by the plate camera).
Wait a small moment here and bear with me while I go off on another of
my seeming tangents.
I am aware that all my numerous visual clues together do not constitute
absolute proof that the
body was found at the "Sharpshooter's Home". But you must, by reasonable
those clues as strong evidence for the sharpshooter's true role.
In my own case, the three-quarter head-shot told me with good certainty
where the body was
found. My naivety required little more than that. To myself as an artist,
that visual clue was as
sure as knowing the sun will rise tomorrow.
But I realize that it is not an absolute fact that the sun will rise
tomorrow. I know and understand
that won't be a fact until it happens. Still, I live life routinely, safe
and secure in my belief that it
But there are a variety of people who inhabit this Earth and some of you
require the absolute. I
respect you. As an artist of high standards, I also seek some form of the
absolute and so I can
sympathize with those of you who cannot accept the numerous clues I have
Even now you may be saying to yourself that this rambling painter has
The absolutists aside, I also know there are those of you who still
maintain a faint hope that what
you have been holding dear for years can somehow still be gospel (although
I should wonder
why you would want this soldier to be someone other than a sharpshooter).
If you are a member
of this faction, you may be thinking just maybe that rock hasn't been lying
on that pant-leg for
four days. Perhaps it was placed there by the photographers to make it look
like the wall had
collapsed a bit onto the "sharpshooter". Or maybe your eyes tell you that
rock is between the
body's legs and not resting on the right shin and ankle and pant-leg.
Regardless which category applies, I know some of you reading this are
not yet convinced. You
want that "smoking gun" proof that the sharpshooter was found laying
beneath that rock wall
shrine in his "home". Nothing else will sway your firm convictions.
With that in mind, I ask you to look again at the four photos taken DOWN the hill. Especially notice photo 4 (made with a stereo camera) as it shows it best. Specifically, notice that crater in the soldiers's right pant-leg formed by the hefty rock from the wall (O) just shown. In appearance, it's like a bird's nest.
So you see, plainly contained and exhibited within these last two
photographic details, is the "smoking gun". I cannot find a way around
this visual truth. I must rank this proof as decidedly better than an
eyewitness account. A witness may lie or stretch truth or memory. These
cameras (Stereo and Plate) did neither and both agree to what they "saw".
Detail of photo 4
That pant-leg had a rounded rock laying upon it for several days. The
rock's weight caused it to eventually sink down to the soldier's leg-bone.
You must agree it made a nice impression.
Dragging the body down the hill would not ultimately hide its origin.
The soldier I believe to be a sharpshooter WAS killed behind his "shrine",
and Augustus Martin's story about seeing him there appears to be true.
You may be wondering why I waited until last to point out this absolute
go to the trouble to think out and type this whole dissertation woven
around clues when I
had actual photographic proof (from two separate cameras) the body was
found at the wall and boulders?
Forgive me, I am an artist. In my case, I take paint and manipulate the
colorful stuff on canvas over a period of days or even weeks....just to
present to your eye something I could have conveyed with words in a brief
statement of fact. In effect, that rounded rock lying on the sharpshooter's
leg was as boring in abrupt fact as it was grey in color. It needed some
As these photographs show from their amazing assortment of clues, there
is so much to be
gleaned through the visual senses. It could have been initially, simply,
and briefly conveyed
to your ear...but it would not be the same as "visually" showing it ALL to
I hope you will judge it to be well worth your time and consideration.
Photographic Evidence in Conflict with CW History
History says through various stories that the Devil's Den was a
stronghold of sharpshooters on the 3rd day of battle. For
example, we have been told there were many dead sharpshooters (killed by
cannon fire) found amongst the boulders.
Through inference, the photographer's work on this part of the battlefield shows otherwise.
Apparently, the swollen bodies they found and recorded in the area were
all killed on the 2nd day of conflict. Only one body killed on
the third day came to light and it was deemed in appearance so rare and
valuable that it was found then HIDDEN- and a total of six known
photographic studies taken from it. I must surmise if there were any other
"good-looking" bodies lying around, the photographers wouldn't have wasted
their time trying to hide the one they found in the "Home".
All the accouterments evidence shown in those "Home"photos also
strongly indicate this
sharpshooter was alone on the ridge. As for the gorge and the large
boulders therein, the non-existence of photographs presenting slightly
swollen bodies shows no evidence of Confederates
killed on the third day in that realm either. [Perhaps the numerous
sharpshooters all "got away"
and did not choose to look after their fellow marksman a short distance
nearby. But, as
mentioned earlier, from the rear of Houck's Ridge, it would have been a
safe and easy check to
accomplish. So... if they were around there....why didn't they go to his
Additionally, if there were other Confederate bodies killed on the
3rd day (not as swollen, better appearance) you can be certain
Gardner and friends would have found and recorded at least some of them.
The photographs taken in the Plum Run Gorge-Devil's Den area appear,
through their lighting, to have been made from morning until well into the
afternoon. Thus, I feel this region would have likely been well-explored by
the three photographers.
To the Military Park and its Visitors
I do hope the Park Service will "see" the truth in these observations
and, at the very least,
remove the current display. The present reconstructed wall "shrine" is very
apropos. To my
sensibilities, it is a very fitting and, in some respects, a more
appropriate memorial than most of those around it. For a hundred years this
intermittently rebuilt shrine has sufficed and the fallen soldier was
revered as a sharpshooter. His memory should once again be held in honor
and he should be credited for his probable role in battle.
I have visited the battlefield many times and I often see the memorial
wreaths placed in situ
where a brave one has fallen while doing his duty for honor and love of
country. I sympathize
with the sensitive and caring souls who place these mementos. These
individuals do not forget
those who truly sacrificed and struggled before our time. Seeing these
wreaths does cause one to
pause and reflect during our movements around the fields. Of course I have
never seen any
wreaths or flags positioned at the "Home". Again, I am hoping this work
will sooner or later
help provide a remedy to this oversight.
The Six Photos
As stated from near the beginning, I have provided the six original
photographs to you in what I think is their order of creation. How can you
tell? Respectfully, I will leave that puzzle to your own judgement.
A Fond Memory
I would like to mention my first brush with the sharpshooter and his
"Home". In July of 1968,
my great buddy and best friend, Bob Rounds, and I were inspired by a
CW-book photograph to
travel to Gettysburg and search for the site of a dead sharpshooter lying
in the Devil's Den. We
loaded the blue Studebaker Hawk and my new Miranda 35-mm and soon were
through the overgrown terrain around those conspicuous granite boulders. We
ambled around the bushy "Duck" and its stony cohorts. Luckless, we
extended our search area. Coming from the east we clambered over a stone
wall between two boulders and made contact.
What a thrill for our 16 and 17 years! There it was just like in the book we had carefully carried along -- complete with water lying in that foreground rock. We had discovered the sharpshooter's hiding place! We were amazed that nothing except the rampant growth had changed in 'all these years'. I raised my modern camera to get the exact photo. Backing up, I bumped into something. Moving around the thing we beheld a Park display showing the very same photo. And a path and a road beyond that. Darn. The Park Service had found him first. We hadn't discovered that sharpshooter after all.
We laughed over our "discovery" off and on the rest of that day and
many more after. Under the
circumstances, what else could we do?
But in a weird twist, during the next decade, the CW community and the Military Park lost its famous sharpshooter. The "F" word began floating around.
Accidents and mistakes are commonplace among humanity. Speaking for
myself, I have made many. History is a realm fraught with question. In the
case of the questionable sharpshooter, I know I wasn't there. None of us
were. But I hope you will agree now that I had very good reason to paint
The Sharpshooter's "Home" as it appeared in August of 1997.
Taken with the Artist's old Miranda 35mm.
James Clyde Groves,
© 1998 James C. Groves. All rights are reserved by the artist. Except for visual Web capture, this manuscript and artworks cannot be reproduced in any manner, for sale or other use, without the artist's written permission.
Registered with the Library of Congress.
Some further details and updates 1999-2002